Yesterday I overheard a waitress say “I survived Christmas! It feels like with kids you prepare a month, it lasts for 5 minutes and then your house is a disaster.” I have felt this way a few years with our kids and it was slightly discouraging. Every year we kept tweaking and figuring out how there could be a balance between celebrating Jesus, building traditions and the Americanized Christmas where materialism now reigns supreme.
I blogged at the beginning of December about how we were approaching Christmas this year and especially the mindset of being very intentional. We had high hopes for the month and even though our schedule was approaching max capacity, we wanted all of it to count.
On Christmas Eve, I read a really great article by Wellness Mama about How to Simplify Christmas. I was encouraged and surprised at how successful we actually felt things went this year. I want to share her article and hope you read it because it has extremely great practical tips. But I also wanted to add the habits and traditions we have established over the years which help keep Christ at the center of Christmas, reduce the stress of the season, and allow our family to truly experience a rich season with precious memories.
I really want to address each of Wellness Mama’s points and expand on the pros of doing them, but you will have to try them for your own family. Currently, we are a family of 7 with 5 kids under 6 thus we have a couple of routines that we bank on ‘while supplies last’ and they are still age appropriate.
We didn’t buy any presents for our kids this year. Does that sound crazy because at one point I felt guilty? And then I kept thinking about it and the guilt went away. They were already getting a lot of stuff from loved ones so we figured out a healthy way to save some over time and they had plenty to open on Christmas morning. Not one of my kids looked at us and said “You didn’t get us anything?” with a sad face. They were just excited for the present and thankful for the person that gave it to them. It was myself who had to get over my own self-pressure and I was glad I did. Our children (and our parenting) are not perfect and we still had to fight all of our urges to say, “What else?” or their assumption that they were receiving something just because different family members came in town. We had to force them to wait their turn while another child opened a present. They have to practice these habits just as much as we do. In the end, we were grateful that they were very appreciative of what they did receive, especially the electric toothbrushes.
I saved stocking stuffers from various nick-nacks around the house. My Mom actually helped me with this and I was thankful for that idea. When we were doing our “Clean out” (which Wellness Mama mentions) the month before Christmas I found little things that would surprise the kids or be a sweet treat. I probably spent $10 buying a few candy cane fillers and juice boxes. The rest surprised them and is now with all their other junk — which is where stocking stuffers at ages 6,5,3,2, and 1 go anyway.
We spent the entire month of December giving and receiving so the day of Christmas wouldn’t be such a climax, only to be followed by a crash of emotion (for everyone including the kids and us). Our Kindess Kids helped us with this! I didn’t blog about them at the beginning of December because I prefer other Moms not to see that stuff and feel like “Ahh, one more thing I missed doing this year.” Nope, you didn’t miss anything this year! But if you’re taking notes for next year and want something different…we love them!
Kindness Kids are basically an alternative idea for those that don’t prefer Elf on the Shelf, but want to have a little fun. Their website shares the main story and a lot of creative ideas are all over Pinterest. I went to Target around this time one year and bought 3 little ornaments. Pick whatever character, little kid, animal, etc that you love and run with the idea! Ours are kids so we call them The Kindness Kids and I named them the first year. They don’t have to show up everyday, do whatever works for you! The ideas are truly endless and sometimes they share something with the kids, other times they are motivating the kids to do various things for others (mailman, sibling, neighbor, person in need, mom/dad, the house, etc). It is a fun thing that we all enjoy together and it doesn’t feel like a burden. The Kindness Kids (with the help of Mom) helped us pick a family to sponsor for Christmas gifts, gave us the caramel to make caramel popcorn for our friends and neighbors, taught us the true story of Saint Nicholas, gave us this amazing book and much more.
Another tradition that I was asked a lot about is our Advent book and how we do it. We use this book and learned about it from dear friends when we lived in CA. It is great for children and adults. We sing the songs, read the story, discuss and pray together each night starting December 1. For a while I put pressure on myself to have nicer ornaments, but after a year or two of making different ones I found something that stuck and was super simple. They were bulbs that matched my Christmas decor and I colored on them. The kids look closely to assess my drawing skills and decode the picture. I’m happy that I repurposed extra tiny bulbs, they’re unbreakable and the kids enjoy having a turn holding it/hanging it on the Advent tree.
I wrote a post titled Giving the Gift of Grace This Holiday Season in early December and it had some tips that our family put into practice all month long. Sifting through everything that crossed our lives this month wasn’t always sugarplums and snowflakes. One thing we didn’t expect this month was needing a new HVAC unit and making a large purchase, but compensating in other areas allowed this unexpected circumstance to be approached with more grace. Taking the time to process things wisely was truly worth it.
Stress did not completely escape us this holiday season. We still felt some pressure and having so many littles creates its own organized chaos. However, by continuing to realign our focus on what this season was really about and resolving to stick with our intentional approach, we felt it was much more successful than years past.
Make sure to read the other posts mentioned for other practical tips! We can’t expect Christmas season to look like this every year and know things will continue to change over the years. Just as we refine processes throughout our normal yearly routine, we will continue to refine our Christmas habits and look forward to the years when our kids can add input into the process. We welcome any ideas you have to make Christmas more joyful, peaceful, and Christ-centered. Drop us a message and thanks for joining us in this journey called parenting!